(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert made the media rounds this past week following the 2021 NFL Draft to talk about the Steelers' draft haul and this upcoming season. One of the media sessions that Colbert was a part of was a one-on-one interview with Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, and a big topic, as usual, was the future of Ben Roethlisberger.
“I think Ben’s mindset is he’s focused on 2021 as we all are,” Colbert told Florio. “I think we all go into it. We focus on now. We see where things lead. Beyond that, none of us know.
“Obviously, Ben’s at the back end of his career. He was terribly disappointed the way we ended, the way he ended. Shortly after the end of the season, he came to us and said, ‘Listen, I want to be back.’ Of course, we had to work on some things contractually. Honestly, he set off a nice little surge because we had several players that were able to come back to us. Ben led the way by taking that pay cut.”
With Roethlisberger taking a $5 million pay cut and saving the team more than $15 million in salary-cap space in 2021, it started a trend where wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, nose tackle Tyson Alualu and inside linebacker Vince Williams all took less money to stay in Pittsburgh. Smith-Schuster signed a one-year deal worth $8 million when the Ravens and Chiefs reportedly offered more money. Alualu originally agreed to terms with the Jaguars, but would later decide to stay in Pittsburgh on a lesser contract than what Jacksonville was offering. Williams was released as a cap casualty back in March, which saved the team $4 million in cap space. However, he signed back with the Steelers on a one-year deal worth $1.075 million last month, which is the veteran minimum.
"The biggest thing was that I know everybody and everybody knows me," Smith-Schuster told Fox News on why he decided to sign a one-year deal with the Steelers this offseason. "I know that if I had to bet on myself, I was going to play with Ben [Roethlisberger] again for one more year. I know my wide receivers coach [Ike Hilliard], my relationship with him is amazing. My relationship with the new offensive coordinator [Matt Canada] is really good, and that’s something that plays a huge part in making the right decision."
Roethlisberger's new contract includes four voidable years to push a $10.36 million cap hit into 2022. It also has four voidable years, and the deal voids five days after Super Bowl LVI. The Steelers should know right after the 2021 season is over whether Roethlisberger is done or not.
Steelers Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis was on the NFL Network's Good Morning Football this past Tuesday and said he thinks Roethlisberger can play for two more years if they can get the running game going.
“Getting that running game in and being balanced offensively so that they are not asking Ben to throw the ball 40 times a game ... If you are asking Ben to throw 40-50 times a game, this will probably be Ben’s last year and it probably won’t go well,” Bettis said. “But if they ask him to throw it 20-25 times a game, then you are going to see the success and I believe you’ll see a second year. Not just this year. But possibly next year, with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.”